Listening too closely to ourselves can lead to timid or restricted sounds. One trick to combat this tendency is "CALL HANDS". Place both hands at the corners of your lips, firmly against your face, with no space between fingers - just like the gesture we use when calling across a distance. Try singing your songs or exercises with Call Hands in place. What do you notice? Does it change the way you perceive your sound? Does the volume seem different? Is the tone altered in some way? Did it change the sensations or enhance how you feel the vibrations? With Call Hands in place, sound has further to travel to reach the ears. This usually leads to less judgment and timidity. Use this trick to stop listening and judging. Instead, start FEELING how great your voice really is!
FRUSTRATION is the enemy of good Riffing. Yet, how many times have you said this to yourself? "I can't Riff." OR "That run is too fast for me!" OR "My voice can't move like that!" If you have, then you've lost to frustration! Most likely you've been listening to finished, polished, and PRACTICED Riffs. However, the artists you admire didn't do their Riffs at full speed when they first tried. So, why should you? Riffs take patience, a listening ear, and a willingness to explore and have FUN. First, slow things down. Take delight in the experience of deciphering notes, accents, and pivot points. Take JOY in learning Riffs slowly and precisely. Only start adding speed when you've found that JOYful place! Frustration actually tightens the instrument and slows you down more. So, SMILE! And your Riffs will soon reward you with speed!
What keeps us from singing higher and higher and higher â€" until only SPOT and FIDO can enjoy our singing? The Vocal Ligament! Your vocal cords are made up of three distinct layers. The innermost layer is the ThyroArytenoid muscle. The middle layer is has a gelatinous texture and is called the Lamina Propria. The Epithelium is the outermost layer and is mucous-covered "skin" of the vocal cords. Now for the kicker: in the middle of the Lamina Propria resides the Vocal Ligament. The same kind of tissue in your knees and elbows is inside your vocal cords! It's fibrous strands provide stability and strength to the vocal folds and also limit how far they can be stretched. This sounds like bad news, but it's not! The Vocal Ligament saves us from stretching too far and… well... singing with a voice only your dog could love!
Try the Vocal INTENSITY Scale! Eliminating vocal tension can be far simpler than we often believe. But, this involves adjusting the way we THINK about the voice. Most difficult vocal tasks don't require the intensity and force that we assume that they will take. Use a scale from 1 through to 10 to self-monitor your Vocal Intensity. On this scale, 1 is your lowest physical energy and 10 is your fullest force. If you notice that you feel tense or vocally tired after singing a song or exercise, ask yourself - "What number on the Vocal Intensity Scale am I singing at?". If you find you're at 9 or 10 most of the time, then try singing between 4 and 6. Likely, you'll still be able to achieve what you were aiming for, but in a much easier way. In fact, it will probably come out better using a more moderate Vocal Intensity!
Don't know much about HISTORY? Well, there's no time like the present! Think of one artist who inspires you. Have you ever researched an artist who inspired THEM? Or, maybe even researched the artists who inspired THAT artist? It could go on and on. However, there's tremendous value in seeking out this type of musical history. This discipline reveals a wealth of artists, songs, styles, and information that can be used to enrich your vocal and musical life! Go to the library or go online and start investigating. Find interviews of artists you admire. Read biographies, autobiographies, or books on fascinating music history topics. Listen to recordings from a specific year or decade. If you take this journey to the past, you'll become an artist brimming with appreciation, nuance, depth, and soul! And who knows? You might even make HISTORY yourself!
Want a voice that will LAST for a long time? Then, don't BLAST your air! Oftentimes, when attempting to hit notes in the higher portion of our range, we try to FORCE it. Yet, the vocal folds are actually safest when a smaller airflow is used. If you find yourself hoarse after belting higher notes, then too much air is likely a contributing factor. A helpful exercise to diagnose breath issues and also practice consistent airflow throughout the range is Lip or Tongue Trills. Trills are such a staple of many exercise regimens because they demand a similar amount of air during all notes. Try using Trills on a 1-3-5-3-1 interval and see if you can sustain the Trill across your entire range. This classic exercise has been around a long time. Using it will ensure that your voice is too!
One of the most important vocal skillsets is Vowel CLARITY. It's sometimes okay to change Vowels in singing. This is called "Vowel Modification". However, our first goal must be to sing our vowels as accurately as possible before modifying them. For example, is your EE vowel as BRIGHT as it should be? Or is it slipping into something like an IH sound? Or, what about the OH vowel? Are you using your lips to form the vowel or is the tongue retracting backwards instead? The concept of Vowel Clarity has been around since the foundations of Vocal Technique and applies to all musical styles. If your vowels can all be sung accurately, then your voice is going to find a great balance of resonance, breath, registration, control, and CLARITY!
You've practiced your vocal technique. You've practiced your songs. You've practiced your performance. So, don't forget to practice your AUDITIONING! It's easy to forget that Auditioning is really it's own skill. While there are similarities between performance and Audition situations, there are also key differences. In Auditions, you're usually in front of a few strangers who you can see in a well-lit room. The acoustics of the Audition often vary from where you rehearsed. The Audition accompanist may not play your music like you expected. All of these variables and more make Auditioning a very different experience than performing. So, try simulating the audition experience as much as you can as you prepare. And most importantly, make sure that you Audition A LOT until the skill of Auditioning becomes as exciting as opening night!
It's okay NOT to pursue a professional performing arts career! Many aspiring artists struggle with an "all or nothing" conflict between their desires to perform professionally and to live a more structured life. The music and entertainment industry is certainly not designed for stability, security, or steady routines. So, if the chaotic structure of those career paths doesn't make you happy, that's OKAY! There have never been more ways to fulfill your creative dreams without committing to a full-time career than there are today. Many artists find that they are MORE creatively satisfied when they pursue their creative artistic outside work hours while holding stable jobs in other fields. So, if you're seeking ways to pursue your artistic dreams, remember that there IS room for you! Not everyone HAS to be a full-time professional performer to be a successful artist!
Practice your voice SMARTER, not necessarily longer! A lot of times we skip our vocal practice because we think we don't have enough time. But, we can actually get a lot done in a short amount of time if we're very focused. When having a problem with a specific musical a phrase, try isolating it and working very specifically. Make any necessary adjustments to the larynx. Think about how your breathing affects the phrase. Consider whether you are squeezing your vocal folds or allowing them to phonate freely. Ask yourself if there are modifications that need to be made to the jaw, the tongue, or the resonance. All it takes to do this is 10-15 minutes or so. And, you will see after only a week or 2 of these SMART practice sessions how much progress you can make in a truly SHORT time!
Sometimes we're not the STAR. Sometimes we perform in small groups, in choirs, as backup singers, or as a part of an ensemble in a musical. In these moments, it's important to still give our ALL! It's sometimes tempting to give less than our best because we think nobody will notice or that it doesn't matter as much since we're in a group. Yet, the reverse is true! The great Stanislavski once said, "There are no small parts, only small actors". These wise words remind us that no matter what role we play in a performance situation, we ought to put forward our best work. This way of thinking will impact those who see and hear you perform far more than you'd think. Approaching every performance situation with full excellence cultivates a star mentality that will lead to solo and leading role opportunities! Be a star ALL the time! …even when you think nobody is watching…
Often we are told to practice our singing in rooms with excellent acoustics. Singing in the shower or in a "live" room is an empowering feeling! It feels as though we can create incredible sounds effortlessly. This is indeed a great strategy for gaining confidence and boldness. However, don't overlook spending at least some of your time practicing in a "dead" space with poor acoustics. You can think of this as "high altitude training" in which you are putting yourself at a deliberate disadvantage. While it's important not to push too hard in this environment, it's helpful to get your voice accustomed to different acoustic scenarios. This will benefit you greatly in the recording studio and also in audition rooms or performance spaces that muffle your best intentions. Practice in many different environments so you are ready for success in any situation!
Want to be a Vocal TRIPLE THREAT? Then you need 3 things: TECHNIQUE, STYLE, and SOUL! Great TECHNIQUE takes practice, but gives you better range, tone, and control. This opens the door to trying a wide array of repertoire. STYLE can be learned by singing many different kinds of songs and mastering the intricacies such as dynamics, texture, and phrasing. In discovering all the stylistic options available, you become more and more creative. Unlocking your creativity puts you in touch with your ever-expanding Freedom and Joy. That's when the SOUL starts to come through in your singing. And, when you sing from the SOUL, what happens? You want to sing and practice every single day! And that brings us back to TECHNIQUE! See? You're becoming a Vocal TRIPLE THREAT already!
The STATUS we present plays a key role in how our speaking voices are perceived in social conversations or business interactions. Instead of thinking of Status referring to how much power or money you have, consider Status as an aspect of your POSTURE. What shape do you take on around others? How big or small do you allow yourself to be? Standing up tall with your shoulders wide rather than slightly slouching. Leaning forward toward your listener rather than away from them. Using hand or arm gestures rather than staying completely still. All of these are examples of higher Postural Status. So, the next time you need to make a strong impression - change your shape and change your STATUS!
Great vocal technique is often about taking things APART more than putting them together. When we make a "yawny" sound, typically the back of the tongue lowers, the larynx lowers, and the soft palate ascends. When we make an especially "nasal" sound, the back of the tongue goes higher, the larynx rises, and the soft palate lowers. These relationships tend to feel natural. BUT! With a bit of coordination, we can combine elements of both! For example, try lowering your larynx and lifting your soft palate, but with the back of your staying tongue high. Or, try letting your larynx and tongue rise, but without letting the sound enter the nasal cavity. Modifying one or two elements of what feels natural can result in new resonances that your voice needs. The more you can DISSOCIATE the elements of vocal anatomy, the more possibilities your voice will have!